Zika Prevention & Tracking at #MACoCon

Attendees at the 2016 MACo Summer Conference learned about the Zika Virus and how counties can prevent outbreaks and track the spread of cases during the “Outbreak! Responding to the Zika Threat” panel on August 18.

2016 MACo Summer Conference - Zika Panel
From L to R: Michael Scott, Scott Shalley, Leana Wen, Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes, & Brian Prendergast

Baltimore City Health Department Commissioner Leana Wen discussed the origin, symptoms, and spread of Zika. She noted that currently no vaccine or treatment exists. Dr. Wen stressed that while Florida is the first state to have Zika cases occur through local transmission, the Centers for Disease Prevention & Control (CDC) expect a majority of states, including Maryland, to see locally originated cases. Wen also described the integrated agency plan that Baltimore City has adopted that focuses on surveillance, outreach, and education.

Maryland Department of Agriculture Mosquito Control Program Manager Brian Prendergast described the life cycle and habitat of Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes aegypti ), one of the primary vector for the virus. He noted that while a common nuisance in Maryland, the mosquito does not range far and breeds primarily in artificial containers. He stressed the need to dump pots, saucers, and even bottlecaps that have collected water, as Aedes aegypti can breed in all of them. Finally, Prendergast stated that that the Department’s mosquito control program will respond to and assist those counties that do not have a local program.

Florida Association of Counties Executive Director R. Scott Shalley highlighted what has happened regarding the locally transmitted Zika cases found in Florida. “[This is] cause for us all to be very attentive…[and] will land very heavily at the feet of local government,” he warned. He also stressed the need for funding at the Congressional level and stated it should not be a partisan issue.

2016 MACo Summer Conference - Zika Audience
County officials listen to Zika Virus presentation at 2016 MACo Summer Conference

Finally, Salisbury University ESRGC Director Michael Scott discussed the use of geographic information systems (GIS) technology to track and map Zika cases.  He demonstrated the CDC’s tracking using the ArboNET system and showed how counties could conduct similar tracking. He also highlighted how LiDAR generated maps could be used to identify potential water sources or  areas with significant artificial ground clutter (which could indicate Aedes aegypti  breeding spots).

Maryland Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes moderated the panel.